Resting on Ledge on Merced River

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp

Established 1916

Merced Lake from Vogelsang Trail

Elevation: 7150 ft. (2179 m)
18 cabins with a total occupancy of 60 guests.

This high sierra camp is located along one of the largest lakes in Yosemite in a granite basin surrounded by ridges and domes. Because of its lower elevation, the camp is relatively warm and has slightly different vegetation, such as large white firs, aspen, Jeffrey and lodgepole pines. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp is also the furthest camp from any trailhead.  With roughly 14 miles (23 km) of steep hiking to get to Merced Lake from either Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows, most visitors choose to stop at either Vogelsang or Sunrise first, and then continue on to Merced Lake the following day.

A short distance from the lake and with a small cascade and perfect swimming pool at its edge, Merced Lake High Camp is popular for rest days along the High Sierra Camp Loop. Guests relax by the lake, swim, or enjoy the day hike to Washburn Lake.  This is a fun destination for fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout.  With the largest available occupancy of any of our high camps, Merced Lake is great for groups and often this camp has availability for the last-minute planner. Merced Lake can also be a handy base camp for further backpacking into the remote southern end of Yosemite.  Have a mule pack up your tent and camping gear and set out for seldom visited areas such as Isberg Pass or Red Peak Pass! 

Make Merced Lake your High Sierra basecamp, and take advantage of a special rate for a three nights or more at Merced Lake.

Merced Lake History

Merced Lake Tent Cabins

Merced Lake’s first recorded name was Shadow Lake, so named by John Muir as he explored the headwaters of the Merced River.  By 1901 the lake was mapped by the USGS with its present name. Merced Lake High Camp was originally the site of a patrol outpost for the US Cavalry built in 1905 but then became one of the first three hikers’ camps built by Desmond Park Service Company in 1916.  The terrain allowed for a large camp with two rock and canvas buildings for the kitchen, dining and lounge and two rows of guest tents.  Row boats were packed in by mule for guest use.  The camp remained open for two summers, but was closed in 1918 due to the Desmond Company’s financial difficulties.  The camp reopened in 1922 as a boy’s camp complete with tennis, baseball and basketball courts.  Activities still enjoyed by today’s guests such as fishing, swimming, hiking & horseback riding were also offered daily.  The Curry Company expanded Merced Lake High Camp to its present size in 1928.  The tennis, baseball and basketball areas returned to forest floor, and the camp opened to hikers and saddle trips of all ages.  The original barn and ice house for the camp are still in use; however the kitchen was remodeled to its modern configuration due to a fire in the early 1980’s. Boats were discontinued in the 1990’s by request of the National Park Service in order to keep the scenery around Merced Lake as wild as possible.